Nada Abdellatif

I knew she was an alcoholic before I even knew the word. Ever since my father died, my mother has been drowning her sorrows in liquor. I was seven when our lives would be changed forever and ever since the funeral, the apartment became more quiet. There was a piece missing in our lives and my mother never found the strength to move on. “Just one drink” were her infamous last words before she would fall unconscious. I remember coming home from school one day to find her passed out on the kitchen floor. The weight of her body pulled me down as I dragged her to the living room sofa. She had vomit in her hair and was barely able to speak. The odor overpowered the apartment as my eyes started to tear from the fumes. I started finding her unconscious more and more as time went on. She never bothered to hide her drinking. Maybe she thought I was too young or too stupid to undertsand. I was ashamed yet I became accustomed to her habits. As I got older, I learned how to hide who she was. She was my responsibility. 

One Sunday afternoon, I watched my neighbor play outside with his parents out the living room window. I watched as his mom picked him up and threw him into the air, catching him again. He pretended to fly. Seeing him from a heightened distance made me think he really was flying. Liberation ran through his body as he was thrown up in the air. His blonde hair flopped as gravity took its course and his arms spread wide. For every moment he was in the air, there would be a second of stillness when he reached the peak of his flight. Possibilities were endless within that second and all I could do was hope for that same feeling of liberation. I wished that my mom could wake up so I could play outside too.  

When she finally did wake up, she stumbled her way through the kitchen. Her white robe was stained and her brown hair was tangled beyond repair. You could tell she had been crying; her deep brown eyes told that kind of story. I hid from her behind the sofa because I didn’t want to remind her of my father. She would always tell me I had his eyes. I didn’t want to make her situation worse than it already was so I couldn’t let her see me. My eyes told a story and so did hers. She rummaged around the kitchen and took out a wine bottle behind the stove and shuffled her bare feet back to her room slowly. She drank to forget but she began to forget about me too. I didn’t know what to do. All I was able to do was hide her from the outside. I didn’t want her truth exposed but she was still my mother. She was the only person I had left and I couldn’t make her hate me even more.

When my dad died, she never talked about it. It was an unspoken tragedy. When I turned eight, she gathered all the family photos and stored them deep within a closet. I remember waking up that morning to sounds of picture frames clashing against one another in a box. I walked to her bedroom, half asleep, to discover she had shoved all of his stuff in his closet. I didn’t say anything as she continued to overflow the closet of past memories. All I did was watch from a corner but I sensed her pain. Needless to say I didn’t celebrate my birthday that year, for her sake. 

I decided to go into her room to try to talk to her. I was tired of hiding and I wanted her to get better. I fathomed the idea ever since I saw the little boy outside. Her bedroom door was slightly open and I pushed it with my fingertips, releasing a creaking sound. The room felt still and the only thing racing was my mind. I wanted to tell her how I feel about everything; how it’s not my fault that dad died. She was laying on her bed and her back was facing me. I stood there waiting for her to say something or for her to at least notice me. Nothing but silence. I waited for something to happen and the tension kept rising.

“You’re an alcoholic,” I said.

She didn’t say anything. I needed her to look at me. I needed her to understand that she’s not alone. I repeated myself again and again until she stopped neglecting me. She wrapped her arms around her head and began to sob. I hugged her from behind, forcing her to stop resisting me. I held onto her until she stopped crying. I wanted her to get help and I think she did as well. Her drinking problem was never talked about over the years, in fact we avoided it up until this moment. I was the reason she was never able to move on and I was going to be the reason she got better. I held her while she slowly started to accept my presence and together we would grow as a family again. After that night, I was finally able to fly.